December 25, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
December 25, 2017
Fr. George Smiga
Wyatt Lafrenière is a six-year-old boy who lives in Quebec, Canada. Wyatt is autistic. Because of this, it is difficult for Wyatt to stay still, and he is hyper-sensitive to being touched. Even the simple task of getting a haircut is a next-to-impossible ordeal. So Wyatt’s mother was grateful to find Franz Jacob, a barber who caters to autistic clients. When Franz plans to give Wyatt a haircut, he schedules the appointment at the end of the day so that he has as much time as he needs. It often takes an hour and a half. He closes his shop because he knows that things must be quiet. He likes to start by playing a game with Wyatt or sharing some candy. Franz says, “If I can get him to smile, that builds trust, and things go much easier.”
As the haircut begins Wyatt often starts wandering around the shop. Franz follows him, speaking softly and carrying his scissors. If Wyatt sits down on the floor, Franz gets down on his hands and knees and crawls over to the boy, ready to make a clip or two. If Wyatt lies down on his stomach with some toy, Franz will lie down next to him and wait patiently until he can reach over gently and catch a tuft of Wyatt’s hair in his shears. “The secret to success,” says Franz, “is for me to realize that Wyatt will not conform to me. I must conform to him. I need to follow him, adapting to his movements and his moods. That is the only way to give Wyatt a haircut.”
Now the story of the barber and his client is an appropriate one for us today on Christmas. What we celebrate today is not simply the birth of a child, or even as the angels tell the shepherds “the gift of a savior.” It is in fact the gift of a savior who chooses to be human like us. The great mystery that we celebrate today is the mystery of the incarnation, a mystery that tells us that our almighty God chose to take up human flesh and become like us in all things but sin. Like the barber in my story, God did not wait for us to adapt to God. God chose to adapt to us, to take up our frail human nature and to make it God’s own.
Now the good news that comes from this profound mystery is that God knows every graced human experience personally. The importance of family, the joy of friends, and the beauty of living are aspects of life that God sees with human eyes. Worries about the future, doubts and indecision, the reality of pain are truths that God feels with a human heart. Hope for the future, the willingness to serve, and the desire to be loved are experiences that God understands with a human soul.
Most importantly the power of the incarnation is not limited to the day of Jesus’ birth. What the incarnation reveals is the way that God deals with us always. So as we gather together with family and friends over the next few days, we should remember that God gathers with us, joining in the memories, the stories, and the love that humans share. If you are troubled by some family issue, some conflict at work, or a personal failure, know that God comes down on hands and knees and crawls next to you to give you support and grace. If you are devastated by a failure in a relationship, the betrayal of a friend, or the loss of a loved one, and you lie flattened by grief and hopelessness. Believe that God will lie down next to you and wait for the moment to reach over gently and touch your pain.
The birth of Jesus reveals that God is willing to adapt to us, to follow our movements and our moods through the twists and turns of our lives. The joy of the gospel does not flow from our efforts to conform to God, but from God’s choice to conform to us.